Category Archives: class

ICreate Week Three: Connect

Strangely enough, I didn’t kill myself as much to prepare for these past two classes. I think it’s mainly due to my figuring out how to become more efficient. Two screens. Banana and organic peanut butter with a wink of cinnamon. Shelley’s book laid out in front of me at a 37.8 degree angle. Ganesha’s blessings. Boom. And the color yellow.

Week Three: Connect

I like to make my students feel uncomfortable by taking photos.

This class I began with a new type of brainstorm. Rather than writing/drawing in abundance with no limits, I tried a new tactic: establish a paradigm. This paradigm was still rather unrestrained, as all it required was the students to connect their ideas directly from each other by drawing a line and a bubble. It started from leaf and I think we ended up with things like Oscar the Grouch, video games, narcissism, and cavemen.


Then proceeded into the four ways I broke down the connect brainset: defocused attention, divergent thinking, connections/metaphors, and a dose of happiness. 

I’ve always loved teaching about divergent thinking because it’s so contradictory to the style of learning usually approached within schools. The fine arts usually tries to tackle the idea generation phenomenon moreso than other classes. And of course, it’s part of my neuroscience thesis. I first brushed upon the three types of problems: reasonable, unreasonable, and illogical. Reasonable – straightforward question and one straightforward, singular answer (i.e. SAT, school tests). Unreasonable – straightforward question with one answer as well, but one is required to “think outside the box” in order to solve it (i.e. brain teasers). The example I let them try was to draw 9 dots and  they had to connect all 9 of them with four straight lines. Don’t scroll down for the solution unless you really can’t be bothered. Okay sweet I know you already saw it.

[picture]

The last type of problem is illogical, which ties in with divergent thinking. It is a singular question that has many answers. The one I proposed to them was “What if you were about to give a speech on healthcare but your fly was unzipped and the zipper was broken?” Their responses ranged from: “Get a penguin to stand in front of you” to “Incorporate the metaphor of an unzipped fly into your speech” to “use a stamp”.

Then we jumped into actually practicing the figural portion of the TTCT. I provided these three symbols and asked them to draw whatever came to mind as long as they used these sketches. Here are responses I got (started on paper then some volunteered to draw on the board):

I felt that my section on connections and metaphors was too broad. There were so many beautiful things about metaphors and its interplay in our lives that I wanted to cover but 2 hours weren’t quite enough. So I ended up sprinting through the last third of the class (almost to no effect…).

But I did have them practice synesthesia thinking! Synesthesia – the condition of reading colors and hearing smells. Sometimes people are confused when asked to imagine what it may be like to dance textures or taste sounds, but it’s a lot more intuitive than most people imagine. We operate our lives through the function of metaphor – almost no communication would be valid without this concept. The main difference between a true synesthesiate and someone practicing synesthesia is the element of spontaneity (synesthesiates can’t inhibit this).

Anyways, I had them do the smelling-drawing activity I typically like to use. Then we experimented with listening to music, describing how being “courageous” felt in our bodies, what the word narcissism tastes like, and a few more.

Click here to see some random student responses to the DT questions and synesthesia questions.

Here is the powerpoint.

Week four will be up soon.

I promise we’ll be more productive soon.

Random thought:

I got to sit on Siri’s Art and Yoga class last week. One student’s response to my question “How’d you find the TTCT?” was “I did so bad on that test. I’m so uncreative.” I get that response from so many adults. It made me think – even just bringing up the challenge of being creative in a classroom setting can completely change someone’s mindset. Or maybe it doesn’t. Just something to chew on, like the color purple.

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I Create: Week 1 & 2

Anddddd it’s been a while. I realize that. Being overwhelmed with schoolwork (behind), TFA (behind), other teaching applications (behind), and extracurriculars doesn’t really help.

One of the major things that has been taking up my time is preparing for a two-hour seminar I teach on a weekly basis. My Fridays and Saturdays tend to be consumed in preparation for a delicious divulgence in creativity and neuroscience. The class is taught as part of the HCESP (which I had to email to find out what it stands for – Harvard College Education Studies Program), and so far I’ve been introducing middle school and high school kids to concepts that I’m pretty sure not many Harvard students know about (I assured them that this is one thing I hope that they take away from this class – they can boast about how their intelligence > Harvard kids > me to their parents and friends).

It’s been a challenging experience so far and I’m already doused in the dilemmas of classroom management. When I taught English to Chinese elders, they were all very respectful and polite, eager to learn the nuances of our language. In contrast, half of my students bounce off the walls, most likely encouraged by my casual attitude (no shoes pwease and doodling encouraged) and subject matter. Shocking at first, but still a lot of fun. I’ve noticed how I always wonder how boring some material is for students, but then realize that I came to the class to teach, not to be complaisant.

I started the class with a brainstorm on the board – I wrote the word “grass” and let the students write whatever they wanted. I tried to carry out part of a study where subjects were asked to brainstorm with an anonymous experimenter planted in the room. The experimenter yelled out an unrelated word such as “disgusting” or “french fries”, which then lead to a much deeper, broader, and creative brainstorm from the participants in comparison to control brainstorms without the experimenter (most likely due to a decrease in inhibitions and more relaxed atmosphere). So I threw up the word “disgusting”. Unfortunately, didn’t really work as a) half the students didn’t see it b) most students looked at the word and said “Huh?” – perhaps writing vs. speaking issues.

I finished the class off with a food neuron building session (shameless luring of the children for future classes? Yes?)

Neurotransmitters = M&Ms, cell body = pop chip, dendrites = gummy worms, axon = chocolate wafer stick, myelin sheath = outer part of the wafer stick

Okay some are wrong, I know 🙂

Not a neuron.

Check out here for the pre-class survey, the worksheet, and powerpoint for the first class.

For my second class, I had an even greater number of students which was even more overwhelming. It’s funny to see how differently students behave/attitudes and it brought me back to my first yoga class I taught at the Veterans Association – I was completely blown away by the diversity of bodies and wasn’t sure how to cater to everyone. I guess this goes back to learning how to stay true to your teaching style (while being flexible at the same time. Paradoxes a la Dao De Jing). Also, I know teachers probably deal with this a lot – the insecurities that cloud over as you watch your students not paying attention to you at all? Now I know how it feels.

Started with a brainstorm on how to link “french fries” and “lions”. Then proceeded to review more neuroscience and jumped into the “Absorb Brainset”.  I am basing my curriculum off of Shelley Carson’s 7 brainsets of creativity, but I’m leaving out reason and evaluate as those two are taught fairly well with our current education system. I highlighted four aspects of absorb: curiousity, open mind, internal and external awareness, and lack of judgment. I also tried to introduce the kids to ADD/ADHD, the 5-trait personality scale, meditation, and alcoholism. I’m not sure how much I’m compromising breadth for depth. I just hope the students have something to think/talk about. I even introduced them to the mesolimbic/dopaminergic/reward pathways in the brain which might have been a little much.

Here are the ppts etc.

Okay, so of course I was prepared for how difficult it would be to have middle schoolers do breath meditation and mindfulness meditation. Sort of.

I tried several times and half the kids messed around. It was totally fine as you only really meet them where they’re at. Instead, I just tried to have them be respectful of the other students who wanted to meditate by asking them to either doodle or text quietly, or even sleep. For the kids who did meditate, a lot of them had really awesome reflections on meditating – one said he felt like he was soaring, another had a trippy vision, others struggled to stay awake. Ultimately, even having one student appreciate how meditation can induce you to be in the absorb state is pretty awesome.

I also attempted a walking meditation in the end – again, same dilemma. And then I teased them (okay no I didn’t – I was really trying to get them to do mindful eating!) by giving them each a bit of chocolate. I was very impressed by their ability to hold off eating the food. I asked them to smell the chocolate carefully first, then take a small nibble – allowing the chocolate to melt on their tongue. By this point, I was getting a symphony of groans and pleads, so I let them finish it off 🙂

I think my favorite thing about teaching though is finding about what kids are passionate about – what they’ll spend hours doing because whatever it is becomes the most fascinating thing in the world. I was teaching about the “Absorb Brainset” and even though I couldn’t get everyone to meditate, it’s good knowing they have their own thing going on (i.e. Zarina’s obsession with symbols which she showed me at the end of class):

Daily Nutrition Facts

Made myself a nice little homemade chickpea soup, but ultimately failed in blending up the roasted peppers (halving the recipe didn’t help too much). Still, I get a kick out of my bay leaves.

OMNOMNOM Indian food night!!! Palak Paneer and “some mixed veg thing” as my friend likes to call it.

And if you were ever curious about the type of chocolate I tried to get the students to meditate on…milk chocolate bar infused with potato chips. You don’t have to ask me how I feel about salt and chocolate (=heaven). However, you can ask me how I feel about milk chocolate (=meh no).

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Week One Photos

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Student Responses to Elizabeth Gilbert’s speech about creativity and her muse

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